Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Tasmania Day 16 - The Quoll Patrol

We had another lazy morning since we didn't plan to meet until 9AM.  After breakfast, I walked around the cabins a bit but didn't see any interesting wildlife of note.

At 9AM, we decided to cruise the roads looking for echidna or anything else that popped up.  We did that for a couple of hours but also saw nothing of note.  Derby, while great for mountain biking apparently, was not very good for wildlife so far.

We had a nice toastie lunch at a cafe in Derby.  As we were leaving, we all piled into the car and noticed a elderly gentlemen with an even more elderly looking dog next to us.  The poor little dog was skinny and shaking as it stood there obediently.  That's when Andrea made the comment that "You can tell that he's old because of the white hair on its face".  Well, I turned around to prominently display my salt and pepper facial hair, which is getting saltier by the year, and said "Oh really?".  Then we all started laughing.  You can't do anything about getting older except laugh at it, right?

After that we headed to the Ledgerwood Tree Carvings.  It was here that we would meet our Pepperbush guide at 1PM to head out on the tour that we booked.  The tour was called The Quoll Patrol and I hoped it would be a good opportunity to see some wildlife.

The tree carvings themselves were pretty interesting.

Tree Carving Plaque

Legerwood Carved Memorial Trees

Legerwood Carved Memorial Trees

Legerwood Carved Memorial Trees

We were met early by the owner of Pepperbush who would be taking us to their Scottsdale office to hook up with Ben who would be our guide.  On the way there, we stopped at a pond to look for platypus and quickly found one:

Our last platypus

It sounds like Pepperbush has access to lots of both public and private ponds in the area so they guarantee platypus if you book a tour with them.  While it was nice to see what would turn out to be the last platypus of the trip, we were hoping to see some new wildlife today.

We met Ben around 1PM and piled into his vehicle for what turned out to be a 4 hour drive to the Pepperbush cabin in the woods.  On the way, we did make a couple stops.  The first was at Ben Lomond NP which was very scenic but the clouds were obscuring the best views from the top.

Ben Lomond NP

It was actually really cold at the top so it made sense that there was a ski lift up there.  They can apparently get quite a bit of snow.  We were surprised to spy a wombat at the top of the mountain but it didn't stick around at all.  There was a wallaby with a thick winter coat that did however.

High elevation wallaby

It's checking me out

The second and third stops we made on this drive were when we spotted echidnas. We actually ended up spotting two of them in different locations but only the 2nd one posed for good pictures.

Our last echidna

A flower in its quills

The moment was ruined a bit when Ben walked over behind the echidna and picked it up.  We quickly voiced protests and he put it back down.  Between the long drive and this I was starting to get a bad feeling about this tour.

Just before we reached the Pepperbush cabin, Ben let us out so we can walk a bit on the road while he went ahead to prepare the cabin for our arrival.  The cabin sits on land owned by a timber company but Pepperbush leases it from them for their tours.  No hunting is allowed on this land which means that there was lots of wildlife here.

Wallaby Road

Wombat chilling

Back-lit Wallaby

Wallabies everywhere

As we approached the cabin, there were a couple huge cape barren geese there.

Cape Barren Goose

There also was a large group of eastern grey kangaroos.  I had read about this group before the trip and knew that they were rehabilitated and released in this area.  I had also read that they do get some food to supplement their wild diet.  So, I wasn't surprised when I saw them all gathered around the front of the cabin eating.  These were basically habituated kangaroos and they were quite tame.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

At attention

Will David beat Goliath?
David vs. Goliath

And David wins...

One of the roos was particularly friendly and Ben mentioned that he liked to have his upper chest rubbed.  At first I wasn't really interested in doing this but the roo kept coming up to us and really wanted a scratch.  So, I eventually relented and started to scratch him.  As soon as I did, he threw his head back in ecstasy.  He really enjoyed the scratch and we all got a kick out of his reaction.  Fittingly, we called him Pat after this.

We also witnessed a great example of Newton's 3rd Law of Motion which is basically that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Well, the opposite reaction from scratching Pat and him throwing his head back is that he would then poop.  Scratching chest resulting in pooping roo.  It happened just about every time.  Pat certainly was entertaining.  I think he was a bit of a diva too because he ended up sticking around longer than the other kangaroos and even did a little sunbathing.  Nice nails...

Just chillin'

While we don't like harassing or being too close to wildlife, it was nice having this tame kangaroo walking among us so that we could get really good looks at him.  One thing that stood out was his huge middle toes.  I certainly wouldn't want to get kicked in anger by a kangaroo.

That foot can do damage

Once all of us had given him a scratch Pat seemed satisfied and ended up hopping away to a nearby field where the other kangaroos had gone.

While the petting zoo was going on, Ben talked about the evening and that's when it became apparent that we weren't going anywhere to look for wildlife.  Worse still, he had already laid out food for the nocturnal animals and ended up laying out more of the dinner that we didn't finish.

The 4 course dinner was quite good and included wallaby meatballs, (no, we didn't eat any meatballs with any actual wallabies around) salmon, and a nice dessert.  But, as I mentioned, there was some food that we didn't finish that Ben put out on nearby fallen trees.  Once it started to get dark, he also put up lights which turned the fallen trees into a stage.  For the rest of the evening, we sat in silence as some brushies and quolls came onstage to the bait.

Yes, this is a picture of a brushie eating salmon which certainly is not part of its wild diet:
Possum eating salmon?

I only ended up taking a couple pictures because to me this was not a wild experience and more like a zoo feeding.  We did have both light and dark morph quolls come.  They were not as tame as the brushie and did a lot of circling around before coming to take the bait.  They also avoided being in the light as much as possible.

Eastern Quoll

We eventually packed up and Ben drove slowly in the fields around the cabin as he headed back to the road.  There was wildlife everywhere.  Wallabies, wombats, pademelons and more. The property was certainly packed with macropods.  It's just a shame that we didn't have any opportunity to spotlight around the area.

On the way back to our car in Ledgerwood, Ben drove incredible fast. He was probably just going the daytime speed limit but that is way too fast at night.  We barely missed a handful of animals on the road thanks to him swerving although I am pretty sure we did hit one brushie.

Now, the one positive from this fast driving is that we all got a look at a wild tasmanian devil  crossing the road that we wouldn't have seen if we weren't at that location at that moment in time.  As it was, we only had a few seconds of viewing before the devil had crossed and was gone.  But, there was no mistaking what it was.

Looking back, we have mixed feelings about this tour.  On the plus side, we did enjoy the cabin property and all the wildlife they had there.  In addition, we did enjoy hanging out and interacting with Pat and of course we did have a nice meal and a fleeting glimpse of a wild tasmanian devil.

But, (and that's a HUGE but) we were not expecting a 4 hour drive to the cabin, our guide harassing an echidna by picking it up, baiting of the nocturnal wildlife, and an obstacle course race home afterwards.  This is especially disappointing because this tour costs $500 a piece and there was no mention in their literature about them baiting mammals.  If there was, we certainly wouldn't have booked this tour since that is a practice that we are very much against.  So, while some people may be fine with all of this, it definitely wasn't for us and ended up being the only major disappointment the whole trip.

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